Manchester Proud Continues to See Remarkable Progress
Our Chamber is an active supporter of Manchester Proud, our City’s first ever community-wide movement to build lasting understanding, engagement, and support for Manchester’s public schools. The work of Manchester Proud is driven by our community’s growing awareness that our schools are an essential community asset and that, while great communities need great schools, school leaders and teachers can no longer be expected to do the job alone. Optimizing education and opportunities for all students must be a coordinated, collaborative community enterprise.
February 20, 2020, marked a milestone in Manchester’s history. On that night, following more than 400 community engagement events and a year of research and planning by our Community Planning Group, Manchester Proud presented, “Our Community’s Plan for Manchester’s Future of Learning: Excellence and Equity for all Learners”, to our Board of School Committee before a packed auditorium at Memorial High School. The results were a resounding vote of approval and a standing ovation.
Since that momentous occasion, even in the face of Covid-19 and unprecedented challenges, remarkable progress continues to be made:
- Guided by the Plan’s “Portrait of a Graduate”, our District has sharpened its focus on student-centered, student-driven learning. Graduation requirements and the District’s course catalogue are undergoing review and updating.
- Our teachers now have a contract and are increasingly provided with more time needed for professional development and support.
- Our Board of School Committee has taken big steps forward to build more efficient and effective governance, establishing behavioral “norms” and streamlining its organizational structure. It has also pledged to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools, foundational principles of the Plan.
- Manchester Proud has enhanced its own structure, merging its Council and Community Planning Group into a single, more representative, leadership team.
Perhaps most exciting is the recent kickoff of the development of a robust, city-wide, School-Community Partnership Network. This initiative is in direct response to Goal #3 of the Plan: “Make our Community Partnerships Systemic”. Led by a Partnership Network Work Group of 15 diverse community leaders, development will begin with the mapping and assessment of current community programs and resources across all 22 schools, identifying gaps and overlaps to coordinate and optimize all services. Simultaneously, the infrastructure will be created to sustain the Network, including the creation of an electronic portal for ease of community access to services, vital information, and timely communications. The potential benefits to our students, schools, service organizations, and businesses are unlimited, including:
- Extended learning opportunities through enhanced lessons, projects, and internships;
- Educators’ professional development and curriculum enhancement through connections to local subject matter experts;
- Alignment of the services of our youth-facing agencies for the coordinated delivery of multi-tiered, system-wide, support services for all learners;
- Promotion of workforce development and the vibrancy of our economy through school-business partnerships; and,
- Creation of a gateway for community donations of material resources and volunteer services to our schools.
Following the launch of the new Network in the summer of 2021, it will be managed day-to-day by Manchester Proud’s first paid staff person, a Director of School-Community Partnerships. The new Director will be located in Manchester School District headquarters to ensure that the work is coordinated with our Superintendent, Dr. Goldhardt, and his team.
Manchester Proud began its mission more than three years ago knowing that it had much to learn. Today, Manchester Proud is uniquely inclusive and comprehensive among school reform initiatives across the country. Along the way, Manchester Proud’s conviction that we need our public schools and they need us has deepened.
Building a future in which everyone in Manchester can realize opportunities to be their best selves is dependent upon the actions we take today as a community. The future we want will demand the knowledge, critical thinking, collaborative skills, adaptability, equity mindset, and respectful civic engagement that can best be cultivated in our public schools – in partnership with the whole of our community.
Together, we can make Manchester’s public schools extraordinary – for all of our kids – for all of us!